by Dave Aulen

I’m not going to string you along. There will be no mention of pirates, pixies, or Pan in this blog. Instead, I’ll be writing about what keeps me going.

I caught the travel bug from my family. My parents enjoyed vacations for the same reasons most of us do: relaxation, new experiences, and a change of scenery. Living in New York put us within a few hours drives to great East Coast destinations like Mystic Seaport, Cape Cod, Washington, and The Jersey Shore. I was seven when we took our first road trip to Walt Disney World. We visited the parks three times as a family.


We stopped going on family trips when I entered high school. During Freshman year I had a chance to go to Europe on a school-sponsored trip. My mom jumped on this opportunity to send me and my grandmother since the tour matched-up with what I was learning in school, and my grandmother had never been to Europe. Flash forward two years later: I arrived home from a trip to Russia to find my mom crying. She just found out that day that she had breast cancer. My travels the rest of the summer were on the commuter train to New York City; exploring the east-side blocks around Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

Mom had a mastectomy and went through radiation. Everything was eventually clear and life was back to normal. I was given one more trip to Europe, then started college on the other side of the state that fall.

Then the cancer came back a year later.

Mom was hospitalized while I was in college and she told me not to worry – just to concentrate on my studies. I came home for Thanksgiving week and spent all the time in the hospital, still hopeful she’d get better. About an hour before I was to begin my road trip back to school we got the call that the end was near. My grandmother and I were a minute too late.

That was over 21 years ago. As I think back to the time and think about my mom, I always come back to one thing. She never got to go to Europe. She postponed that dream for me to go. The day she entered that hospital was the day she entered Neverland — Never going to see new places, never going to see the rest of her son’s milestones, never going to enjoy growing old with her spouse. I can’t fathom what could go through one’s mind during those final weeks.

When I get crap from people for all my travels, I go back to this: There’s nothing more important to me than spending quality time with my wife Holly. Fortunately she has the travel bug too. For both of us Day 1 of any trip is very exciting (once we land). There’s always something on the calendar to look forward to.

When the opportunity for Holly to join Team AllEars came up in 2010, I was happy. A new trip and we get to do something good for others. That was just the surface. We have so many new friends and have been moved to tears so many times as we’ve witnessed the generosity and support of this community. Now that I’ve been through my own health issue (heart-related), I decided it was time for me to join my friends and commit to fighting cancer in my mom’s honor. I have joined Team AllEars 2012 and will raise money participating in the Disney Family Fun Run 5K in January.


Travel may not be everyone’s thing. What is your thing that keeps you excited? Running? Scrapping? Kid’s sports? Photography?

What are the things you want to do and haven’t? Would not doing these things be a regret if you found yourself in “Neverland?” Can you plot a course towards these things? Of course you can give your kids everything they could want…but save a little for yourself.

Travel and spending times with my wife keeps me up. I’m going to do everything I can to keep myself up and I encourage anyone reading this blog to find what keeps you up. Once you find that thing, do everything you can to stay up and NEVER LAND!


If you’re planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you’d like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at [email protected].

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3 Replies to “Neverland”

  1. We were always “going” to travel. One Saturday, my husband did not feel ‘well’. We went out on some errands and he said, you better take me to the ER. Got him there, told the nurse he had to been seen immediately, and he died 30 minutes later from a heart attack. They brought him back to me in a little over a minute. But what a long minute. We have had other scares over these past ten years, but none as life changing. Travel stopped being in the distant future. We have been all over, including 2 trips to Europe, Hawaii and these US States. We cherish each minute together. Do your self a favor, folks, if you have a dream, try to make it a reality. You do not know when it will be too late.

  2. What an awesome blog!! My husband and I love to travel. We especially love going to Disney World. People always ask us why we keep going back. Spending time together with our children is the most important thing to us. Since you never know what is waiting around the corner for you, my philosophy is to enjoy life to the fullest! Sure, we could be saving our money for something down the road. But since “down the road” isn’t guaranteed, we’d rather travel now!!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I, like you, live for today. My own mother is a two year cancer survivor but unfortunately my Dad is no longer with us, so all her anguish she kept to herself. I hope if ever I am faced with such news, I can be half as strong as my Mum.

    I love to travel but don’t call it traveling – I call it giving my kids memories. My Mum has a saying she lives by “Regret what you do, not what you don’t!”

    Enjoy your travels and I wish you every success in your fund raising for a such a worthy cause.